Category Archives: Christianity

Concerns from the Book of Hebrews

I’ve been communicating with several people lately on the topic of Torah and whether it is still true for today’s believers. Invariably, the book of Hebrews is quoted to me, along with interpretations that point toward lawlessness. Here are some of the verses that people bring up while suggesting that the Law is no longer valid.

I just want to state for the record that I do not believe that anybody’s salvation depends upon obedience to the Law. Our salvation was earned through Christ’s obedience and sacrifice, and He is the only way to salvation. When folks hear that our family makes an effort to keep the commandments, some of them automatically think that I believe we have to keep the Law, but I know we don’t have to. Torah observance isn’t about having to keep it but rather wanting to keep it.

It’s the difference between not not stealing because you’re afraid of losing your salvation (which I don’t believe can happen anyway) and not stealing because you don’t want to sin against our loving Father (assuming you were in the mood to steal anyway, I suppose). And not even having the desire to steal is a blessing of His holy spirit because His righteousness is always at odds with our fleshly nature, which is to rebel and get by with as much as possible. He truly does write His Law in our hearts.

Let’s get started by looking at Hebrews 7:18:

“For there is verily a disannulling of the commandment going before for the weakness and unprofitableness thereof.”

Last year, I wrote an article about this passage. You can find it here. I have been studying and studying since then, and I am not sure that my interpretation was entirely correct. I do not claim to have complete understanding of these verses, but I do know what this verse means: “For thus says the LORD, ‘David shall never lack a man to sit on the throne of the house of Israel; and the Levitical priests shall never lack a man before Me to offer burnt offerings, to burn grain offerings and to prepare sacrifices continually.” Jeremiah 33:18. And that verse makes impossible the modern interpretation of Hebrews 7:18.

Also, if you look at these two blog posts (1 and 2), you will begin to understand the big picture of why I believe the way I do. In a nutshell, I believe Jesus when He used the authority of Torah to rebuke satan during His temptation in the wilderness: “But he answered and said, It is written, Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God.” Matthew 4:4. I believe that any time a matter of doctrine comes into question, we can search the Torah and see if that’s what has been written. The Bereans believed the same as I do, checking everything Paul taught them against the scriptures and making sure that what he said aligned with the very Words of God Himself. I believe we should do the same.

Next, let’s take a look at Hebrews 8:7-9:

For if that first covenant had been faultless, then should no place have been sought for the second. For finding fault with them, he saith, Behold, the days come, saith the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah: Not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day when I took them by the hand to lead them out of the land of Egypt; because they continued not in my covenant, and I regarded them not, saith the Lord.”

In the old covenant, God found fault with “them” (verse 8), not with the Law. The Law is perfect, righteous, holy, good, but the people broke it. In the new covenant, He put his Law in their hearts, to enable them to obey out of desire. We still don’t obey it perfectly, but Christ did, fulfilling the human obligation to keep the covenant in order to obtain eternal life. Anyway, the Law is an integral part of both covenants, new and old. We don’t keep it out of obligation, but out of a hunger and thirst after the righteousness of God.

In addition, I would like to add that the Levitical and Melchizedekian priesthoods certainly can coexist. The Melchizidekian priesthood was around before the Levitical priesthood. There has never been any fault with the Melchizedekian priesthood, so it was not replaced by the Levitical one.

“And this I say, that the covenant, that was confirmed before of God in Christ, the law, which was four hundred and thirty years after, cannot disannul, that it should make the promise of none effect.” Galatians 3:17

The Melchizedekian priesthood is the true priesthood – the body, if you will. The shadow cast by that body is the Levitical one. It is the object lesson that helps us understand the true, spiritual priesthood. Bodies and their shadows can certainly coexists. Spiritual and physical realities can certainly coexist.

Here’s my take on the book of Hebrews: The Jews were under attack and were getting ready to lose the temple and the Levitical ministry. They had continued to keep the Law (including Levitical regulations) after salvation, and this presented absolutely no problems, as made obvious by Romans 3:31, Acts 26:22, and the fact that Paul went with the men who had Nazarite vows (unless you think that Paul was two-faced and didn’t practice what he preached). Along comes 70AD and the impending destruction of the physical temple. Suddenly, the Jews realized that they would no longer have an earthly high priest to offer the continual burnt offering and others, and I think they probably freaked out because they still didn’t understand that Jesus is our spiritual high priest, and that we do have a continual advocate with the Father, and that His ministry is older and better and perfect – completely covering sin for all time. This explains why the writer of Hebrews continues to use present tense in the verses speaking of the Levitical ministry, as though they are still legitimate, and why he said that the Levitical priesthood was getting ready to pass away, instead of saying that it had already passed away when Jesus became our high priest. It seems to me like these things should be obvious since we never hear Paul or any of the other disciples or apostles preaching that the Levitical priesthood is passed away. Since it is a physical priesthood, it is the physical destruction of Jerusalem that caused it to pass away. This is not to say that it is not still righteous. (All of God’s Laws are righteous and always will be.) This is not to say that when the priesthood is physically reinstated, that it will not still serve as the perfect object lesson for understanding Christ’s sacrifice for us. We can read in the last 10 chapters of Ezekiel that Zadok (descendants of Levi, Aaron, and Phinehas – to whom the priestly ministry was promised forever) will be reinstated as Levitical priests. Here are the promises made:

Numbers 25:11-13 (Phinehas); Exodus 29:9 (Aaron); Exodus 40:15 (Aaron); Numbers 18:8 (Aaron); Deuteronomy 18:5 (Levi); Jeremiah 33:17-21; Micah 3

Here is a bit more that I have written on the subject that may help you understand where I’m coming from. Sorry if some of it is redundant. I’m copying and pasting. Someone had asked how we can know that the Catholic priesthood is not a legitimate priesthood:

The difference is that the Catholic Church does not follow the regulations set forth for the priesthood. We know that Christ is our spiritual high priest, and that we are part of that spiritual royal priesthood, but if there is to be a legitimate physical priesthood on earth, it must follow the rules that God gave for the physical priesthood. These rules are not man-made, nor are they subject to man’s opinion of them. Hebrews 8:4 tells us that Jesus Christ Himself could not be a priest on earth because it would contradict the commandments concerning the physical priesthood: “For if he were on earth, he should not be a priest, seeing that there are priests that offer gifts according to the law:”

During the Millennial Reign, which you can read about in the last 10 chapters of Ezekiel, the Levitical priesthood will be reinstated. (Not because that priesthood ever took away sin, but because it is a powerful object lesson that teaches us about redemption and the function of the spiritual priesthood. That was its purpose in the Old Testament, and that will continue to be its purpose during the Millennial Reign of Christ.) “And it shall be for them an appointment as priests forever, for all generations.” (Ex. 40:15) “For the Lord your God has chosen him out of all your tribes, to stand to serve in the name of the Lord, him and his sons forever.” (Deut. 18:5)

Because the Levitical priesthood is the only legitimate physical priesthood, the regulations given to them in Torah are the only legitimate regulations governing that physical priesthood. So in other words, the Catholics are doing it all wrong. They are guilty of the same sin that Jesus was always reviling the Pharisees for, and that is the complete and utter disregard for Deuteronomy 4:2: “Ye shall not add unto the word which I command you, neither shall ye diminish ought from it, that ye may keep the commandments of the Lord your God which I command you.” (Since Jesse and I became Torah-observant, people have tried to catch us in hypocrisy by asking us why we aren’t still making sacrifices. What they fail to realize is that many of God’s regulations concerning the service of the priesthood cannot be carried out apart from the temple in Jerusalem, so even if the Catholics rounded up some Levites and tried to follow God’s regulations, they wouldn’t get very far because they would need the temple.)

In addition to problems with the priesthood, the Catholic Church believes they have the authority to make other changes to God’s Word. I personally believe that God’s Law is perfect, has always been perfect, and that you can’t improve on perfection. I believe that when He gave us the Law, He was describing actual righteousness to us, and not just arbitrarily inventing some things to be “bad” and some things to be “good.” If it’s true that His Law is righteous and perfect, then no one has the authority to make changes to it. Time can’t change it. Culture can’t change it. “Dispensationalism” can’t change it. The definition of righteousness is not defined by oligarchy or majority rule.

In fact, God Himself won’t break His own righteous Law because it is righteous and He is righteous, which is why He had to jump through hoops to redeem us. (For instance, a man cannot be remarried to his adulterous wife once they have been divorced. To this day, the Jews don’t understand how God is going to keep His promise to Israel and remarry them without compromising His own standard for righteousness. However, the Jews are ignorant of the Messiah’s role in redemption. God made it clear that the death of the husband fully releases the wife from the marriage. By dying Himself, He released both parties from the marriage contract, as though the marriage had never taken place. This action allows us to be remarried to Him as His pure bride.)

Hebrews 8:13:

“In that he saith, A new covenant, he hath made the first old. Now that which decayeth and waxeth old is ready to vanish away.”

The difference between the old and new covenants is not a new law (aka, God’s righteous statutes vs. Christ’s law of love). The statutes are precisely the same. In fact the whole point of the law is love – it has always been about love. The problem is, individual human beings, especially ones that have been brainwashed by society, false religion, new doctrines, and their own willingness to engage in rationalizing sin, have different opinions about how to love God and how to love neighbor. When every man does that which is right in his own eyes, we go through dark spiritual times – as in the days of the judges. In fact, I believe we are in one of those times now: because lawlessness shall abound, the love of many shall wax cold (paraphrased from Matthew 24:12). You see, one of the great purposes of the Law is to tell us God’s way to love Him and God’s way to love neighbor. He spells it out for us to lay all arguments among ourselves to rest. The difference between the old and new covenants is the place the law is written: on our hearts (Hebrews 8:10, quoting Jeremiah 31:33). The holy spirit enables us to WANT to keep God’s laws. It’s no longer done out of obligation, but desire.

If the Law became obsolete at the death of Christ, then how the Law will go forth from Zion during the Millennial Reign, and why there will be animal sacrifices once more? Why will the line of Zadok (descendants of Levi) minister before Him once again? The fact is that animal sacrifices never saved anyone. They are merely a shadow, an object lesson, to help us understand the reality. People will still need this object lesson, even in future. Just because the crucifixion and resurrection has already taken place, that does not mean that people will understand exactly how Christ atoned for their sins. Temple services paint a clear picture, and they are God’s way of doing things. If they weren’t, He would never have given statutes concerning them. (BTW, all his commandments are righteousness. Psalm 119:117.) His Law is the truth (Psalm 119:142), and His truth endures to all generations (Psalm 100:5).

Hebrews 9:9:

“Which was a figure for the time then present, in which were offered both gifts and sacrifices, that could not make him that did the service perfect, as pertaining to the conscience;”

The figure is an object lesson, and that lesson is the same for all of us, whether you were born before Christ or after: that gifts and sacrifices cannot make us perfect. Sacrifices never right a wrong, they never erase a sin. The only way to be sinless is to never commit sin in the first place. Christ’s atoning blood covers our sin – He paid for it as though He were the one committing it. He didn’t erase sin. The weight of all sin fell on His head. He paid the bill in full.

Hebrews 9:10:

“Which stood only in meats and drinks, and divers washings, and carnal ordinances, imposed on them until the time of reformation.”

The meats and drinks, diverse washings, carnal ordinances, etc are only the object lesson. They may make the body pure, but they do not erase the fact that sin has been committed. They all point forward to Christ. Once the temple is rebuilt in the Millennial Reign, they will also not make the worshipper pure, but they will point back to His atoning work. It is an object lesson, and a good one, and one that we need as long as sin remains in the world. (As made obvious by the fact that there will be sacrifices in the Millennial Reign, under the direct jurisdiction of the Messiah.) I would say that the figure was “imposed” on them until the reformation (Was the reformation the new covenant, or was it the fact that the temple was itself about to physically be destroyed? It could be a spiritual or a physical reformation and present no problems to my beliefs). Now we have entered the new covenant: we obey God’s statutes (all that we possibly can) out of desire. I think that both Jeremiah and the writer of Hebrews, and Jehovah Himself would agree with me (based on the entirety of scriptures).

Hebrews 10:9:

“Then said he, Lo, I come to do thy will, O God. He taketh away the first, that he may establish the second.”

For context, start reading at the beginning of this chapter before you read what I have to say about it. You have to understand that throughout history, even when the Law was initially given and up to the present time, God would prefer for His people to obey Him, rather than disobeying and needing to kill an animal to point to Christ’s atoning work. Christ Himself never had to go to the temple in order to offer a sin offering, and the burnt offering never applied to Him (that specific offering was made every morning and every evening to be a continual covering for sin). Christ came to do God’s will, not to disobey and make sacrifices to cover disobedience. As far as taking away the first, I think that the Jews needed to go through a period of not having the temple services available to them in order to understand that Christ was their high priest. We know that there is nothing wrong with sacrifices in and of themselves: Firstly, because God commanded them, and He only gives us righteous commandments. Secondly, because they will be restored in the last days (the Millennial Reign). He wanted to firmly establish the work of Christ in the minds of believers, and perhaps there were some that couldn’t see the true body (Christ) because they were too focused on the shadow of that body (the Law). Not that the shadow is not a legitimate representation of the true. It most certainly is. It’s not an allegory invented by some church father; the allegory was instituted by the Father Himself – the one who doesn’t change with the times.

Hebrews 12:18-24:

For ye are not come unto the mount that might be touched, and that burned with fire, nor unto blackness, and darkness, and tempest, And the sound of a trumpet, and the voice of words; which voice they that heard intreated that the word should not be spoken to them any more: (For they could not endure that which was commanded, And if so much as a beast touch the mountain, it shall be stoned, or thrust through with a dart: And so terrible was the sight, that Moses said, I exceedingly fear and quake:) But ye are come unto mount Sion, and unto the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to an innumerable company of angels, To the general assembly and church of the firstborn, which are written in heaven, and to God the Judge of all, and to the spirits of just men made perfect, And to Jesus the mediator of the new covenant, and to the blood of sprinkling, that speaketh better things than that of Abel.”

This is very clearly a contrast between the old covenant and the new. Remember, the new is God’s Law written on our hearts, and by pointing out the fear and terror of those agreeing to the old covenant, this passage makes that distinction clear.

For further consideration:

It seems to me that the entirety of Hebrews 7 is a defense to the Hebrews of how in the world Jesus could be our high priest since He wasn’t in the Levitical priesthood. Because God is righteous and His Law is righteousness (Psalm 119:72), the Hebrews were well aware that God wouldn’t break His own righteous commandments. (That would make Him unrighteous.) They wanted to know why Paul claimed that a member of the tribe of Judah could suddenly be our high priest. Do you see how they were testing what he taught against the OT, to see if his doctrine was true? If he had been teaching something not in accordance with scripture, they would have had to throw out his doctrine (as would we). Turns out, there’s an easy explanation: Paul’s answer is not that the Law was annulled. He argues that Jesus can be our high priest without breaking the Law. In fact, he says in Hebrews 8:4 that if Christ had stayed on earth, He could not legally be our high priest. In order to be an earthly priest, you must be of the Levitical line. In the Millennial Reign, I believe that the sacrificial system (Zech 14, Isaiah 56) will be reinstated and ministered by the Levites: “For thus says the LORD, ‘David shall never lack a man to sit on the throne of the house of Israel; and the Levitical priests shall never lack a man before Me to offer burnt offerings, to burn grain offerings and to prepare sacrifices continually.’” Jeremiah 33:18

Now why would Paul need to prove that Jesus could legally be our high priest? Because the Law is very much still in effect (righteousness is still righteousness) and obviously applies to Christ, who is the embodiment of righteousness. Christ, being the Word made flesh, never broke Torah in His existence, and He’s not about to start now. He is the same yesterday, today, and forever. Instead, Paul’s argument is that the order of Melchizedek precedes the Levitical order, and that Melchizedek’s order is the true order in heaven, the Levitical order being only a shadow of the reality. Both orders can co-exist, the perfect one in heaven and the figure of the heavenly one on earth.

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How does a godly marriage relate to Christ and His body of believers?

I intend to go more in-depth about some of the concepts listed in this book during the following year, but for an overview, here is the review I left on Amazon. Follow my blog and visit this page if you are interested in hearing what’s coming up: www.theedenconcept.com 

The book is available here (just released today!), if you’d like to read it and contribute to the conversation: https://www.amazon.com/dp/1983938343

The Eden Concept: Marriage God’s Way, by Dana and Kimberly Williams, is an honest look at God’s plan for every marriage. It wouldn’t matter if you had been born in the dawn of creation, the dark ages, the 50s, or this millennium, this book give ageless advice because it is based on something that never changes: scripture. Within its pages, you will not only find great advice about how to proceed with your own marriage (taking many different situations into account), but you will learn how the Biblical concept of a physical marriage is God’s object lesson to help us understand our relationship with Him (our spiritual marriage) — specifically, Christ’s relationship to the body of believers as a whole. If your marriage is struggling, you will find much needed help by reading this book. If you are looking to improve an already fantastic marriage, you will find deep truths and eye-opening concepts that will help you analyze the dynamics of your marriage so you can keep it going strong for a lifetime. Above all, if you desire a closer walk with the Lord, this book offers keen insight on how to put our love for Him into action. It is full of practical things you can try right now to make a difference in your life, and would also make a great Bible study tool for individuals, couples, or groups who are longing to make a deeper connection in their physical and spiritual relationships.

This book hits on some interesting topics: equality of the sexes, gender roles in marriage, the affects of sin, the importance of the foundation of scripture for all aspects of our lives, humility, jealousy, the command to love one another (which I am convinced must manifest itself in the way we treat one another, not in the way we feel toward one another), forgiveness, finances, gossip, honor, raising children in a godly home, hypocrisy, our witness to the lost, and more. As I read through the book, I took notes that I thought would make interesting bouncing-off points for blog posts later on, and so I have my own in-depth notes concerning each of the items in the list above. What I’m trying to say is that this book is very deep, very practical, very interesting. It is definitely worth a read and some deep consideration of the many truths found within.

Some of the other strong points in this book: it does NOT fall into the category that I like to label “fluffy” Christianity. In other words, this book is not in existence to help Christians feel better about themselves even if they are living a life of sin. It exists to exhort us to good works, and it accomplishes that very well. Another thing it has going for it: it doesn’t just give you a scripture reference and leave you to look it up for yourself. We know that very rarely happens in the real world. Instead, the book includes the full text of the scriptures as they appear in your Bibles. Another strong point is that the book often goes all the way back to the Old Testament, to the very root of our beginnings to build a foundation that points us toward godliness and understanding of the age-old concept of marriage. Anyone who knows me knows how highly I value that single fact alone. Our God’s righteousness doesn’t change according to differing people groups or with the passage of time. What was right for Adam and Eve, Abraham and Sarah, or the Israelites is still right for us today. Read this book; recommend it to your friends; you’ll be happy you did.

This book was provided to me free of charge in exchange for an honest review.

Jesus in the Old Testament?

Does the following passage give us a glimpse of Jesus in the Old Testament?

What do you think?

Judges 13

21 But the angel of the Lord did no more appear to Manoah and to his wife. Then Manoah knew that he was an angel of the Lord.

22 And Manoah said unto his wife, We shall surely die, because we have seen God.

23 But his wife said unto him, If the Lord were pleased to kill us, he would not have received a burnt offering and a meat offering at our hands, neither would he have shewed us all these things, nor would as at this time have told us such things as these.

Hate, Love, and Homosexuality

Did you know that there are verses in the Bible that say that God hated Esau? (Malachi 1:3, Romans 9:13) I have read the verses over and over in my lifetime but never gave them much thought.

One day, a man in our church preached about it. He challenged me and compelled me to come to terms with the meaning of those passages. He and I arrived at different conclusions, but nonetheless, I am indebted to him for forcing me to look into this topic.

You see, it’s NOT okay to read the Bible, soak up the parts that sound good to us, and let the rest fall to the ground. (Which is, unfortunately, what most people do. They create their own god – based on the parts of the Bible that they like.)

The painful truth is, if the verses about God hating anyone were true, then He was not the God that I’d always believed Him to be. Or, so I thought.

I went home from that church service unable to sleep or do anything other than think about what I’d been forced to read. I stayed up late that night and got up early the next day, insistent on getting to the heart of the matter. I would not rest until I had the answers in my hand. I turned to just about every reference book I owned, searched the web, looked up every possible related passage in the Bible, wrote pages of notes. I WOULD have resolution, and I would have it soon.

Here is a note that I wrote to myself in the margin of one of those pages:

“How can we fit those verses into the same Bible? How can He be the same God? We know He is, by the many proofs we have seen (Feast days, OT points to Christ). If it doesn’t seem to fit, there must be a misunderstanding of some kind.”

You see, in the quest for truth, one thing is absolutely necessary: that we learn to be honest with ourselves.

At first, I went looking for excuses. I thought that perhaps it was okay to hate people who were doomed anyway – I rationalized by wondering if it was because they deserved the penalty for their sins. But that didn’t make sense to me because I knew that God did not desire for anyone to perish, but for all to come to repentance (2 Peter 3:9). Also, I deserve the penalty for my sin, but God doesn’t hate me. In addition, David said that he himself hated people with a perfect hatred. Was David righteous enough to hate an imperfect perfect person? No.

Next, I thought to myself – perhaps the meaning of “hate” has changed since 1611. For the next page or so of notes, I based all of my research on this idea. After all, we know that English words like “conversation” (lifestyle), “knew” (had sex with), “let” (hinder), “meat” (food), “quick” (living), “quit” (keep on), and “suffer” (allow) have all changed in meaning since 1611.

This argument was close enough, and I finally got some sleep.

Skip forward to today.

For the past 18 months or so, I have been studying Hebrew. And lately, I have learned a few things about their language and the way they see the world: Hate is not what I thought it was. Neither is love.

Try to fully define either of those words for yourself, and what do you get? Paragraphs of explanations and examples. They are called abstract ideas for a reason. And if you compare your perception of these nouns to anyone else’s, there will be inconsistencies, contradictions, arguments. I have discovered that the Western way of thinking is wholly to blame for this. The reason we don’t understand things such as faith, love, or hate is because we are looking at them through a Western lens.

The Word of God was penned by people who understood the reality of these terms. The Eastern mindset is concrete. In order to love someone, you have to do it, not feel it. And that makes sense, doesn’t it? If you don’t do it, then you don’t really feel it either. A mother who fails to feed her starving baby does not love that baby, no matter how she thinks she feels about him. Hate and many other abstract words function the same way.

When God spoke of hating Esau, He wasn’t telling us how He felt about them. He was telling us that He actively worked against them. He brought judgment down upon them. Not because He wanted to destroy them, but because His righteousness demands that all sin must be paid for.

In reality, He desired to save them, just as He desires to save everyone. “The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.” 2 Peter 3:9

If you persist in rejecting the Messiah’s substitutional sacrifice in your behalf, then you will necessarily pay for your own sins, which will prevent you from inheriting eternal life. (The wages of sin is death. Romans 6:23)

So that’s the biblical definition of hate. Then what is love? The Almighty God loves us by doing what is best for us. God’s entire Law hinges on love. In it, He tells us how to live a healthy and successful life. The Law is love. The Law is life. After informing us of the best way to live, He allows us to choose whether we want to walk in the ways of life or abandon it.

If there is sin in our lives, then the Law prescribes correction. It’s not always pleasant, and it’s not always what we would choose for ourselves, but it is always best. If you are a parent that loves your child, then surely you have corrected him. Parenthood is the perfect object lesson. There’s a reason He calls Himself our Father.

So how do we even begin to love Him in return? I have one word for you, and that is obedience. Look it up. Read your whole Bible this year, and when you have finished it, tell me if I’m wrong. “If ye love me, keep my commandments.” John 14:15

The following is a story about a lawyer who was trying to trick Jesus into tripping over His words. I believe that He wanted Jesus to belittle some of God’s words (making them less important in comparison to others). Here’s how the story goes:

Then one of them, which was a lawyer, asked him a question, tempting him, and saying,  Master, which is the great commandment in the law? Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.” Matthew 22:35-40

How did Jesus score? Did He pass the test? Yes, He did. His answer was rhetorical. All of God’s words are equally important. So Jesus said to love Him and love people. In doing these two things, you will walk in all of God’s commandments because:

Love for God = obedience

Love for your neighbor = lawful behavior toward mankind

Jesus’ response to the lawyer points out the weight of the whole Law. He had the same response for satan: “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that procedeeth out of the mouth of God.” Matthew 4:4 – not just some words, but all of them.

Time for a few more abstract terms:

Forgiveness. Have you ever wondered how to forgive someone? It’s not in how you feel about them. It’s how you behave toward them. It’s what you say behind their back; it’s how you treat them to their face.

What is faith? Behaving like you believe. That’s it. Faith manifests itself in action. It is the evidence of things not seen. If there’s no action, there’s no faith. James 2:18 is rhetorical: “shew me thy faith without thy works, and I will shew thee my faith by my works.” Read the whole chapter to get the big picture.

One more really controversial topic; I will say as little as possible while still making myself clear: homosexuality itself is concrete. If you aren’t sleeping with members of the same sex, then you aren’t a homosexual. If you sleep with a member of the same sex, and then stop again, then you aren’t a homosexual. In fact, we really shouldn’t be using the adjective homosexual to define a person at all. There is homosexuality – that is the noun, the act. For Christians to call another human being a homosexual is for Christianity to buy into the belief that we are born that way and have no say in the matter.

Perhaps you stole a candy bar from the gas station 30 years ago. Do you refer to yourself as a thief for the rest of your life? Perhaps you know the combination to the safe at work. You daydream about making off with the money and retiring to a tropical island. Do you refer to yourself as a thief because of your temptation? No. Thievery is what you do – how you behave. It is an action.

What about a recovering sugar-addict? You may dream about ice cream, donuts, and candy bars all day long. Yet you care more about your health, so you deny yourself sugar. (IMHO, this is the same reason that God told us not to commit homosexuality – because it’s not healthy, and he wanted us to know that it isn’t good for us.) Do you label yourself a sugar addict forever, or do your actions define who you really are?

I’m not saying that we shouldn’t refrain from thinking homosexual thoughts. We should also refrain from fantasizing about burglary, extra-marital sex, vengeance, any number of things. Thoughts lead to action. However, I am worried about all of the kids and teens and even adults out there who are going to start labeling themselves as homosexuals just because an impure thought crossed their mind. We don’t label ourselves fornicators and adulterers at the slightest temptation. Why would we do the same for homosexuality? I’m afraid that these people will buy into the idea that they are “homosexuals” and that their belief will lead to behavior. What do you think?

Again, I know I’ve touched on some highly controversial topics here. I would venture to say that many Christians and many homosexuals will be offended by some of the things I’ve said here today. However, I do want to hear from you. My mind is forever adapting to new information, so I encourage any feedback you may have for me. Let’s just give our best effort to respect each other and keep things civil. 

Why I Ditched Religion – by Katharine Trauger

On Monday, I asked a sincere question, and I have received some really great, honest feedback from you all in return. You can check it out on my post Truth-Seekers? Are You There? Be sure to read the comment section, because that’s where you’ll be challenged and find the best conversations.

Today, I wish to share one of those answers with you.

Guest post by Katharine Trauger at Home’s Cool!

When I was twelve–I remember it clearly–I sat in church wondering. I knew I was looking. I felt I knew what I was looking for.
I knew there was truth somewhere in the Bible because I knew there was this basically unexplainable thing that the original 12 disciples had found and were completely willing to die for. And, sorry, but I also knew it wasn’t religion. Nope. There are tons of religions and religions are what make people willing to KILL, not willing to die.
I truly sat in church and realized what I was getting was what people were willing to kill for. I had not found anything I was willing to die for. I was pretty sure those who went before in the Believing tradition had found whatever that was. All the martyrs had had something, found something, and all the Crusaders had not.
I wondered what it was and wanted to find it, if possible.
I’m a sort of scary personality in that I usually just calmly watch and listen. And when I know that I know something, I teach. But if I get pushed, I might flare up. A little bit. Maybe. Heh heh.
So I just sat in church and waited and listened and watched. For all the love I had for the history/tradition, for all the artistic beauty inherent in the average formal church setting, and for all the comfort of repetition, I could not find anything that would be hard to walk away from. At all. But I felt pretty sure whatever it was that I could not find, it was still there to be found, but I could not find it.
Eventually I left for college and ditched it all for a disobedient lifestyle. I married an atheist/agnostic who was a brilliant thinker. (Oh, and he was in the same denomination, so my parents were pretty pleased. Snowed, more like it.)
The VietNam draft and the cost of college forced us to choose the military life for a short while. Then back to college and on to married parenthood and a real job. During this time came the movie “Jesus Christ, Superstar”. We did not view it, but did purchase the soundtrack, for which, for some reason, the product insert included a Bible reference, and we opened the Bible in our home for the first time, ever. And my mostly unchurched husband had questions which I could answer, from the storehouse of Bible memory work I’d spent my childhood learning.
Ironic, no?
Eventually I began feeling guilty about not attending church and since my husband was okay with it, I went a couple of times. You know how that can make you a member, sometimes? First thing I knew, I was teaching VBS. It was 1976, the bicentennial year. I remember that, because the VBS curriculum was all “God and Country” and having just exited the VietNam/college culture, I was really having trouble teaching little children something I did not believe. Really.
I remembered things from the childhood Bible memo work, still, and I remembered that if we ask for spiritual gifts, God always says “yes”. (Or so I was taught.)
Therefore, one night, still angry at the curriculum, and also angry at God, I prayed. “God, if you’re really up there, you’ve got to do one of two things: You either have to change my brain or else you have to get me out of teaching VBS, because I REALLY cannot teach things to little children as truth if I don’t believe them myself.”
Two choices. I actually had issued an ultimatum to God that He had two choices, if He wanted me to believe He exists.
Guess which one He chose.
I was so sure He could not change my brain (because He probably wasn’t really “up there”), and still so mad that He’d let me get into the predicament (because, although He does not exist, everything is His fault, right?), that I was fuming the next morning about what I was going to have to teach to little children.
My husband noticed my agitation and asked what was wrong. I began showing him all the propaganda in the teacher’s book that had made me so angry.
And I could not find it. I could find the book and no pages were missing. But I could not find the “opinions” that had so angered me. I could not find the untruths. I could not find a. single. thing. in that curriculum that was not reasonable, not conceivable, not plausible. I was dumbfounded. I had locked horns with God and lost.
Won, actually. Because overnight, He had instilled faith in my heart. Because I told Him He had to, then rolled over and went to sleep. And He did it.
And I want to tell you what I got was NOT religion. NOT. NOT. NOT.
What I got was life. It’s a whole different thing, entirely.
Even the Bible describes religion: looking after widows and orphans, and keeping yourself unspotted by the world.
That is admirable, yes, but also SO MUCH NOT what I got. I got life in Christ. I finally found what it was that the martyrs had. I’d actually seen God at work and no longer knew He was probably real. I KNEW HIM. His fingerprints were and always are on me.
Just not the same, at all.
Yes, I’ve looked back a bit. Trouble is, He’s got my back. He is always very near. Well, actually, He is in me. In me. The Living Water is not a parable. Nope. It is reality.
It is the only reality.
I used to say, and I think it is relevant, here, that there are 3 Kingdoms:
The Plant Kingdom, which we know for sure we are not a part of.
The Animal Kingdom, which many think they are part of because they think that is the only alternative.
And.
The Kingdom of God, a spiritual kingdom that invisibly coexists all around and among and within us, who belong to Him. A kingdom into which a person must be born. Again.
And that is where I am and where I have been for over forty years.
I have been young and now am old, and I’ve never seen anything I can regret about His lifting me from my slow death into this fractalesque explosion of true life.
Hope you didn’t think our answers would be short… 🙂

One Law

The traditional Gentile Christian says that we are no longer under the Law. Or sometimes they say the Law was never intended for us to begin with. They can’t seem to get their story straight. It’s pick-and-choose. Don’t worry about the Law of Moses – that was given only to the Israelites. Oh, but don’t kill anyone. That’s not right. Keep the 10 Commandments. Those were intended for everyone. Oh, well, except the sabbath day; don’t worry about that one. You know what though? You really shouldn’t get a tattoo or cut yourself. Only rebellious people do that. Oh, and if you commit homosexuality, you’re a reprobate. That’s an abomination. What? So is eating pig? Well, Deuteronomy doesn’t count anymore. Setting up a Christmas tree in your house is okay though. (I know that originated with fertility worship, but God shouldn’t care as long as we use the tree to worship Him.) Forget about the feast days. Yeah, He says they’re perpetual, but since they’ve been fulfilled, it would be sacrilege to keep them anymore. Oh, but you had better pay your tithes!!!!!

No wonder atheists and Jews think we’re crazy.

The Jews that I talk to say that the Law of Moses was never intended for Gentiles at all. But let’s see what their own Torah has to say about that:

“Ye shall have one manner of law, as well for the stranger, as for one of your own country: for I am the LORD your God.” Leviticus 24:22

“One law shall be to him that is homeborn, and unto the stranger that sojourneth among you.” Exodus 12:49

“One law and one manner shall be for you, and for the stranger that sojourneth with you.” Numbers 15:16

“Cursed be he that confirmeth not all the words of this law to do them. And all the people shall say, Amen.” Deuteronomy 27:26

The above passage is interesting in that it specifically doesn’t mention foreigners. However, it is referring to a future event, one that actually takes place in Joshua 8, after the fall of Jericho and Ai. Read the whole chapter, but take special note of the last verse:

“There was not a word of all that Moses commanded, which Joshua read not before all the congregation of Israel, with the women, and the little ones, and the strangers that were conversant among them” Joshua 8:35

Why would it be a sin for a Gentile to disobey Hebrew Laws? Because they are first and foremost Yahweh’s Laws. They are the very definition of righteousness itself.

Psalm 119:142: “Thy righteousness is an everlasting righteousness, and thy law is the truth.”

Psalm 119:172: “My tongue shall speak of thy word: for all thy commandments are righteousness.”

And the righteousness of God did not morph somehow with the coming of Christ: “Whosoever committeth sin transgresseth also the law: for sin is the transgression of the law.” I John 3:4

Could our Father be any more clear? All of these apologetics you’ve been reading your whole life are merely that – man’s method of explaining away the things they don’t understand.

We seem to think that God and His righteousness and His Law are three separate things, but they aren’t. Since Jesus is the Word made flesh, we should realize that the Torah and the Messiah are inseparable. All of the following verses relate to the pre-incarnate Christ: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God. All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made. In him was life; and the life was the light of men. And the light shineth in darkness; and the darkness comprehended it not.”

Read the whole chapter to see what I’m talking about.

Food for thought – how would you suggest that a Messianic Jew live? Should he throw out the perpetual commandments? What does “perpetual” mean to you?

What if you are among the ten lost tribes? What if you are Hebrew and you don’t know it? Most of us probably are: Genesis 48:19. What then?

What about an adopted child? Is he excluded from the laws of the family, or is he treated as a natural-born son? Galatians 3:29

Listen, if you really want to know what’s going on, read the entire Bible. Let it challenge your misconceptions, then dig until you find the answers. Then read it again. You will understand more the next time through, and expose the next layer of misconception. Rinse and repeat – it’s an incredible journey!

Truth-Seekers? Are You There?

Okay, so I have a legitimate question. And the comment section is open to everyone, even if you think it is a stupid question in the first place, and even if you are an agnostic or atheist. I don’t expect everyone to agree with each other, but I do want to engage in respectful, intelligent conversation.

So here it is: have you ever gone through a serious phase of doubt in your life? And when I say doubt, I’m talking about your core beliefs. The ones that make you who you are. The reasons that you behave the way you do. I’m referring to the lens through which you view all other beliefs and ideologies.

I sincerely want to hear what you all have to say, even if you don’t call yourself a Christian. However, it is my opinion that this is something that sincere Christians do not talk about often enough. To me, it almost feels like the church is operating under an Emperor’s-New-Clothes mentality. We’re afraid that if we admit to having doubt, it will de-legitimize everything we claim to believe about God. Has anyone else felt what I’m feeling here?

So, if you did have doubts, or if you still do, where did they come from? Did you read something in the Bible that caused you to second-guess? Did you have a conversation that challenged your long-held beliefs? Maybe someone asked a question, and you just couldn’t fathom having an answer that fit in with everything you’ve ever believed.

I’d like to get a little bit of self-analyzing here, because I think it’s important that we ask the hard questions in an effort to become fully aware of why we believe what we do. I don’t think it’s good for people to float through life believing everything they’ve ever been told, even if it was a highly respected or valued individual that taught them.

Be a believer or a non-believer, as you wish. But be an intelligent one. Know why you are clinging to your religion (or anti-religion, as the case may be).

Okay, so a couple of follow up questions for those who have doubted: did you search for answers, or allow your beliefs to fall by the wayside? Did your religion suddenly become the most important thing you could possibly dig into and research, or did you just shrug your shoulders and leave it in the dust? Why do you think you reacted that way?

Did you come full-circle? Are you believing what you believed before, or did something change with the new information? What changed, and why?

If you doubted, and did your research, and are now a believer again, do you feel that your faith is stronger than ever? Do you feel that you needed to experience a time of doubting and searching to become the person you are today?

If you have never doubted, not even for a moment, why not? Are you clinging so closely to what you grew up believing that there’s no room for questions? Are you afraid to ask the hard questions? Afraid that you won’t like the answers, or afraid that you may be misled by someone who believes differently than you?

Truth is worth seeking. Even if you have to break down 50 years of traditional beliefs, even if it divides you from your friends and family, Truth is worth finding. Seek with a whole heart, and never be afraid of the Truth. Truth is freedom.

If the Bible is true, and I have found that it is, then your seeking will not go unrewarded. You will find the answers you are looking for:

“Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled.” Matthew 5:6

“And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.” John 8:32